I enjoy my morning walks around the yard, to listen to the birds' songs and to check what is popping up in the flower gardens. I noticed a wren house on the corner of the shed is partially hidden by the dead fines of last years' hops. I had missed it the day I cleaned out the other birdhouses, so I took off the lid and reached inside to remove last summer's wren nest. It was at just this moment that I heard the song of a wren - the first one of spring! I wished him good morning and welcomed him back, but I wondered if he was watching me clean out his home. It's about a week earlier than they usually appear; probably he was back due to the nice weather.
The wren house cleaned and secure, I continued on my morning stroll. From under the pines, at the edge of the woods, came the familiar song of the towhee. He also must have arrived in the night, and his spring song enhanced an already beautiful spring morning. "Drink-your-tea!" his song called. I walked over to the pines in hopes I might get a look at him. I saw sweet little bloodroots blooming on a blanket of pine needles, and the small flower-covered stalks of Dutchman's Britches also looked quite pretty. And there he was, kicking through the pine needles for insects: a Rufus-sided towhee!
It's nice to take a little extra time for discovery while on a walk. It may pay off when you get to see a handsome bird like the towhee.
Towhees are shy birds of the underbrush. They spend much of their time on the forest floor, searching for insects. Dense brushy cover is essential habitat for these thrush-sized birds. They are identified by their black-and-white plumage with rufus flanks. Their long, rounded tails guide them through the thick understory of the woods. If you have a pair of binoculars and can get a closer look, notice the blood-red eye of the male, set in his shiny black head.
As I turned to walk away from the spring's first towhee, I glimpsed something else that was familiar but not seen since last spring. Poking up through the pine needles were three little gray morel mushrooms. I bent down for a closer look, and to see if I could count any more mushroom heads, but three is all there were. It seems that by the third week of April, there is something new to see every day.
I didn't pick these first little gray mushrooms of spring, although they would have been a treat in a breakfast omelet. I never pick the first ones I find. I guess it's my way of honoring them. Besides, I know that for the next month, there will be many others to find.
Finishing the walk, I headed for the house for a nice cup of tea. The sun was up and it was time to get to the drawing table. During the winter months, the days being shorter give me less time at the drawing table. I start early in the morning, when the light is good, but often have to quite when the sun passed over the west ridge, around 2:30 in the afternoon. It's one of the pitfalls of living in a small valley.
In the summer, you may find me drawing until six or seven o'clock. It's not just because I have more daylight to draw in; I also get very inspired this time of the year. There's so much to see and hear in the spring, so many wonderful things to enjoy and to convey on paper. I wish there was time to write an article every day and do a nice picture to go with it. The things I do write about are just a little part of what's happening down nature's trail.
The pastures have turned to bright green since the recent rains. Winter's brown landscape is finally coming alive with color. A new sense of freshness is in the air and these Kickapoo mountains are responding.
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